In what ways did John Marshall’s nationalistic vision contribute to growth and development of the Supreme Court but also to the economic and political growth and expansion of the new nation?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1801 to 1835.  During that time, the Court handed down a number of decisions that increased its own power and/or which led to the growth of the new country.

First of all, we should understand what it means to say that Marshall had a “nationalistic” vision.  This does not mean that he believed in the superiority of the United States over other countries.  Instead, it means that he believed that the US should be one nation, united under a strong national government.  This is in contrast to people who thought that the US should be made up more of separate states loosely connected to one another.

Now let us look at three of Marshall’s decisions that reflected a nationalist point of view.  First is the decision in Marbury v. Madison.  In this case, the Supreme Court took for itself the power of judicial review.  This gave it the ability to say whether laws passed by the Congress were constitutional and to strike down laws that were not.  (We should also note that the Marshall Court took the right to strike down state laws in the decision in Fletcher v. Peck, thus giving itself and the national government more power.)  The second decision is McCulloch v. Maryland.  In this case, the Supreme Court held that the state of Maryland had no right to tax the Bank of the United States.  It also ruled that the Congress had the right to make essentially any laws that it deemed necessary.  Congress did not, the Court said, have to stick to the powers expressly given to it in the Constitution.  This helped to build the country politically, giving it a Congress that could do many things rather than limiting it to having a weak Congress.  Finally, there was the case of Gibbons v. Ogden.  In this case, the Court made it clear that only the US government (and not the states) could regulate interstate commerce.  This was instrumental in creating a strong national economy as well as a strong national government.

In these ways and others, Marshall handed down decisions that increased the power of the national government and the Supreme Court and which helped the country grow politically and economically.

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